Tag Archives: garam masala

Spiced Raisin Pearl Couscous

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Any exciting plans in the works? I’m thrilled about our plans: we are staying in. Ordering Thai delivery from our favorite place in Chicago, which also happens to be wonderfully cheap (thus allowing us to order a ton of different dishes instead of just 2, and feast on the leftovers for days). Esconcing ourselves in a pile of blankets and watching a movie, or an episode of Dr. Who. Or an episode Downton Abbey. There will be snuggling. There will probably be some mushy romantic talk. Maybe I’ll crack out some of the old correspondence from our dating days. In any case, it’s going to be low-key and cozy, which may be my favorite way to spend not just Valentine’s Day, but any evening.

On that note, I have a completely different story for you. It has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day.

Once upon a time, on a cold and dreary Thursday night, I went to Bible study at David and Beth’s house. Though I had already eaten dinner at work before heading over, Beth asked if I was hungry, and if I wanted to eat some of her curry. “Just a taste,” I said (Beth is a fabulous cook and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity). I took a bite, and the culinary corner of my soul was in spasms of joy within seconds. It was so, so good! Curry over a pile of pearl couscous, with wonderful juicy raisins and the rich aroma of garam masala pervading it all.

“I must have the recipe!” I cried.

So based on my friend Beth’s description of how she made the couscous part of this lovely mealtime experience, here’s what happened in my kitchen.


(Serves 5)

1 lb Israeli or pearl couscous + 1 sprinkle each red quinoa, orzo, mini garbanzo beans
(OR substitute couscous for 1 package Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Blend)
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 TBS oil
1 large onion
2 TBS butter
Up to 1 tsp salt
2 tsp garam masala
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup raisins

First, it’s all about choices: you can either use some Israeli style (or pearl) couscous with a smattering of orzo, red quinoa, and baby garbanzo beans, or you can simply pick up a bag of this stuff:

Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Blend, which my friend Beth gave me based on the enthusiasm of my ravings about her dish. And her incredible generosity. Thanks Beth.

Finely dice the onion.

Heat the oil in a large skillet with deep sides, or a pot. Add the onion and fry for 10 minutes with 1/4 tsp of salt, until browned and caramelized. Add the garam masala . . .

. . . and stir fry for 30 seconds, until fragrant.

Add the chicken broth, butter, and raisins, and bring to a boil.

Add the couscous, quinoa and orzo.

I added the raisins a little later, as you can see–in the instructions I’m having y’all add them with the broth. Maximum plumpness is necessary.

Bring back to a boil, then cover the pan and lower the heat.

Simmer for 10 minutes, stir vigorously . . .

. . . then let it sit for an additional 5 minutes, covered (this will allow the raisins to plump up a little more). Taste and add up to the full remaining 3/4 teaspoon of salt, depending on the saltiness of your chicken broth.

Serve it up!

With cilantro on top, if that floats your boat.

I’ve eaten this as my main dish for dinner (with a side of fresh green beans), as a snack, and under a thick layer of delicious curry.

And you guessed it! Beth’s curry recipe coming on Thursday. It’s possibly my favorite recipe on this blog to date, so you don’t want to miss it.

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Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

Yes, yes, I know I recently posted a tikka masala recipe. But this is different! See, it involves a slow cooker. And the slow cooker is something that I tend to forget about most of the time . . . until I remember it. And realize that fall and winter are the perfect seasons to put it to use. Make it work for its room and board, type of thing. Justify the space it’s taking up on the shelf, type of thing.

After reading about this recipe’s delights on a Tasty Kitchen blog post (courtesy of the lovely Rebecca), one chilly Saturday morning in late October, I threw it together. Hours later, as the evening started to fall, it was ripe for the eating. Comforting, hot, and perfect for an evening in, reading on the couch and snuggling for warmth.

Now this recipe involves a little more work up front before the slow cooker takes over–this is not the recipe from your grandma’s arsenal that just has you throw a couple cans of cream-of-something and some raw meat into the slow cooker and turn it on. No offense meant to cans of cream-of-something, old recipe arsenals, or grandmas. With this recipe, there’s some chopping, some frying, and general cookery that took me about 35 minutes before I could wash my hands and let the crock pot magic happen. But you can’t argue with the results–it’s so delicious that it’s worth every second of effort.

You may be asking yourselves: which tikka masala is better? The original recipe you posted or its slow cooker counterpart? Friends, I’m pretty darn sure it’s this one. Heidi, I know you didn’t have great results with the Pastor Ryan’s tikka–so this one’s for you!


(Serves 6)

For the chicken:

9 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 3 lbs)
1 TBS ground coriander
1 TBS ground cumin
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 cup plain yoghurt
4 TBS butter
1 large jalapeño pepper

For the sauce:

4 TBS butter
1 large onion
8 cloves garlic
1 TBS Kosher salt
3 TBS garam masala
1 piece ginger, 2-3 inches
4 cups crushed tomatoes (approx. 42 oz)
1 TBS sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 handful cilantro, chopped

Trim and cut the chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces (on the larger side, since they will eventually be so tender they’ll be falling apart).

Stir the chicken together with the coriander, cumin, salt, and yoghurt until the pieces are evenly coated.

Let it sit for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, grab some garlic. Lots of it. This is not the time to skimp. In fact, it’s never the time to skimp in matters of garlic.

Mince the garlic and chop up the onion . . .

. . . skin and mince the ginger (skinning it with a spoon is the easiest way) . . .

. . . and wash and mince the cilantro. Or you can do that later, since it won’t go in until the tikka masala is ready to be served.

Divide the first batch of butter (4 TBS) into 1 Tablespoon portions:

Melt the first tablespoon of butter in a large cast iron skillet or Dutch oven over high heat. When melted and bubbly, fry 1/4 of the chicken pieces for 2-3 minutes.

When browned, remove them and put them straight into the slow cooker.

Repeat this process with the remaining chicken (frying it in a total of 4 batches).

This is also where I insert (in an annoying voice, wagging a wooden spoon in the air): don’t try to fry everything at once to save time! It will actually slow down the process and prevent the chicken from browning properly. The brown bits add tremendous flavor, and by frying in small batches, each batch cooks really quickly.

Of course, you could always be a rebel and just dump everything into the slow cooker raw and see how it turns out. I think next time I’ll be a rebel.

Cut the stem off the jalapeño and pierce it multiple times with a knife.

Place it on top of the chicken.

Melt the remaining butter in the same skillet or Dutch oven over medium high heat. When melted, add the onion and garlic, and salt.

Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion starts to brown around the edges.

Add the garam masala and ginger to the onions . . .

. . . and stir for about 1 minute.

Add the crushed tomatoes and sugar . . .

. . . and increase the heat to high. Stir vigorously, scraping up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan, and as soon as it boils, it’s a wrap! Pour it over the chicken in the slow cooker:

Slow cook the tikka masala on low for 5 hours.

Hmmm . . . I really need to clean the front of my slow cooker. It’s looking disturbingly dirty.

Now go have fun. Take a walk, read a book, drink a coffee. Wrap a present or two, do a silly dance in your slippers, and spank your husband (or the nearest spankable person). We’ll reconvene in 5 hours.

. . . 5 hours have now passed . . .

Okay! Good to see your lovely faces again! Hope you all had a blast and half doling out spanks and drinking java. Now where were we . . . right-o!

Whisk the corn starch into the heavy cream until smooth.

Add the cream to the slow cooker and stir it in.

It will look like it doesn’t want to get friendly with the tomato sauce, but just cover the slow cooker again and let it do its thing for 10 minutes, and it will incorporate itself quite nicely. Stir in the cilantro right before serving.

Serve the curry over rice. I made regular long-grain white rice in my rice cooker with a tablespoon of butter and a bunch of frozen peas mixed in right at the end–and it was fabulous.

Serve up the rice . . .

. . . and drown it in sauce!

It’s glorious.

Click here for printer-friendly version: Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala